Tag Archive: nelson mandela


madibaSo Nelson Mandela is dead.

And while it is a time of sadness and mourning in many ways, it is also a time of huge relief for many of us who watched him get really really old and then really really sick and we just wished him moments out of the spotlight and a time of finally being able to rest.

It has been interesting experiencing this time of his passing – like a Twin Towers moment, the question of ‘Where were you when it was announced that Madiba had passed on?’ will no doubt stick in many peoples’ minds and be the source of stories for years to come, especially as parents try to give their children a glimpse of who this man was and what he did for our country, and even the world.

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE NEWS OF MANDELA’S DEATH BROKE?

I was sitting on our bed at home and Val came in and shared the news and we quickly found the CNN commentary and sat for a couple of minutes which became hours listening to stories and watching pictures of his life and of those gathering outside his house dancing as a united group and heard people from around the world paying tribute.

Part of it seemed quite surreal being so far away and yet I felt strangely reassured by comments and status updates from other friends of mine from South Africa who are in the UK or Canada or some of my improv mates who are doing shows in Reunion Island – we formed part of this unspoken group, brought together by the fact that we experienced the moment and the occasion while not being close enough to see the effect around the country.

So many extreme reactions and statements and experiences and reflections flying around cyberspace and the social networking arena has also added such a eclecticnicity [it should be a word!] to the proceedings – from profound remembrances like this one of Bono sharing about the man who could not cry and this one by my friend Cara sharing about her experience of meeting Mr Mandela and the reminder that there is work to be done -to more insightful challenging ones like this one titled ‘Mandela will never, ever be your minstrel’ – through subtle yet honouring messages like this one by traditionally satirical website, The Onion, which tongue-in-cheekedly claimed that Nelson Mandela would be the first politician to be missed – through to the unfortunate and ridiculous of other less known satirical websites running stories as if they were reporting real events of Kanye West claiming he will be the new Nelson Mandela or the hoax tweet allegedly posted by Paris Hilton that Nelson Mandela’s “I have a dream” speech had been a huge inspiration to her – and to the horrific yet not-too-unexpected news that the Westboro Baptist ‘church’ are at it again and are looking to picket his funeral [which honestly feels like a life-shortening endeavour] to go alongside their ‘Mandelainhell’ hashtag.

Just so many thoughts and reactions and commentaries and sights and sounds.

THE LEGACY OR THE EXAMPLE?

A lot of people have spoken of the legacy of Nelson Mandela. While others [particularly in the comments sections of various articles – seriously that is where all the troll-breeding happens – comments sections are the modern day bridges of the village path that is the internet] have taken much delight in pointing out that we are still at or near the tops of the charts when it comes to murder and violent crime and rape and so on. And that certainly doesn’t feel like a legacy worth celebrating.

I guess there was definite legacy in the fact that Nelson Mandela, released from prison after 27 years, came out in such a humble, peaceful and forgiving way and that our first all-inclusive elections which historically should have been in the midst of a civil war, were so relatively peaceful and that the transition of government took place fairly seamlessly. Mandela’s attitude and stance seemed to play such a huge role in terms of transitioning in peace. So definitely some legacy there.

But when I think of legacy I think of the idea of inheritance, of what has been left behind. And while that does include a lot of good, it also includes a lot of mess. Unfortunately, for the most part, the politicians and presidents that followed Mandela do not seem to be a huge part of that legacy. Stories of corruption, greed and nepotism break almost weekly and threaten to send South Africa the way of so many other countries.

When I look at those things, I imagine a lot of them must have made Nelson Mandela sad. I wonder how much hope he had for the nation when he watched as those, he stepped quickly out of the way of power for, did not seem to follow a lot of what he was about…

And so that is why I think I would rather choose the word ‘Example’ over that of ‘Legacy’ because that is really what we are hoping the current government and future leaders and the younger people growing up in South Africa will take on. And just like any analogy is only as strong as the point it is making, so it is important for us to remember that Nelson Mandela was not perfect, he was not a saint [which he said countless times himself [‘I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.’] and he certainly was not a Messiah [there has been and only ever will be one of those] but we can learn so much from the aspects of his life that were worth celebrating and definitely worthy of emulating in our own.

When I think of Mandela, what stands out for me was the joy with which he seemed to embrace life and freedom and leadership. He really seemed to be such a huge figure who was just able to be. His almost naughty-at-times sense of humour, his powerful and mesmerising laugh, the way he reached out to people and gave them time and attention and looked them directly in the eyes. His dancing. That stands huge as a memory of him I will hold on to for a while. The Madiba sway – hands in fists, African shirt, side to side motion with a huge smile on his face as he commanded the rhythm of the music.

THE GREATEST MAN WHO EVER LIVED

Was he the greatest man who ever lived? No, I don’t think so. Firstly because I believe that title goes to Jesus Christ. And secondly because I strongly imagine that the majority of the greatest men and women who ever lived, hardly anyone will ever know about – because they served and they loved and they gave their lives quietly behind the scenes, out of the spotlight, with no recognition, simply because they knew it to be the right thing to do. Did Nelson Mandela do some great things and demonstrate an incredible example and achieve a whole lot of good? Absolutely. We should never forget that, but we should also always hold that in perspective. Whenever you put a human being on a pedestal, at some point it is bound to crumble and crash to the ground. Because we are all flawed and messy. And therein lies what is worth celebrating – that despite his flaws and brokenness and messiness [and there was definitely that- both before and after prison] he was able to inspire and give hope and make some bold moves and express a whole lot of love.

Which, after all, is the greatest thing anyone can ever do. Love, and love well.

Rest in peace Mandela. Thank you for the example.

Yes, he was just a man, and should never be seen than anything more than that [and just like all of us he was flawed and would be the first to admit it] but having said that he demonstrated with his life so much more than most men do and so he was a very special man and it is fitting that we take some time to celebrate and mourn and remember the legacy that MUST cause us to examine ourselves and see where each of us can live better.

Some images of some of the different aspects of Nelson Mandela’s life to remind us of his smile, his charisma, his life and humility…

Followed by some testimony from U2 lead singer Bono who in this article gives tribute to Nelson Mandela, specifically to his focus on poverty:

Mandela saw extreme poverty as a manifestation of the same struggle. “Millions of people … are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free,” he said in 2005. “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome … Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation.” It certainly fell to Mandela to be great. His role in the movement against extreme poverty was critical. He worked for a deeper debt cancellation, for a doubling of international assistance across sub-Saharan Africa, for trade and private investment and transparency to fight corruption. Without his leadership, would the world over the past decade have increased the number of people on AIDS medication to 9.7 million and decreased child deaths by 2.7 million a year? Without Mandela, would Africa be experiencing its best decade of growth and poverty reduction? His indispensability can’t be proved with math and metrics, but I know what I believe …

Reminding us of his humour and humility:

He had humor and humility in his bearing, and he was smarter and funnier than the parade of world leaders who flocked to see him. He would bait his guests: “What would a powerful man like you want with an old revolutionary like me?”

He finishes off the article by explaining why Nelson Mandela was the man who could not cry:

Laughter, not tears, was Madiba’s preferred way—-except on one occasion when I saw him almost choke up. It was on Robben Island, in the courtyard outside the cell in which he had spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. He was explaining why he’d decided to use his inmate’s number, 46664, to rally a response to the AIDS pandemic claiming so many African lives. One of his cellmates told me that the price Mandela paid for working in the limestone mine was not bitterness or even the blindness that can result from being around the bright white reflection day after day. Mandela could still see, but the dust damage to his tear ducts had left him unable to cry. For all this man’s farsightedness and vision, he could not produce tears in a moment of self-doubt or grief.

He had surgery in 1994 to put this right. Now, he could cry.

Today, we can.

I want to close this post with a tribute sung by Johnny Clegg and Peter Gabriel at the 46664 concert and one of my favourite African songs: Asimbonanga

Mandela

 

i never realised Nelson Mandela was on Oprah although it does make a lot of sense and i must take a look round the Tube to see if i can find the whole interview, but this short four minute clip from it just gives a glimpse into the heart and mind of the man who really made some good choices in life and taught a lot of people a lot…

 

now we just continue to hope and pray that the leaders that continue in his path will capture even a portion of the heart he carries and carried for our country, which i love.

viva, Mandela, viva.

[To read an earlier post on Reasons to leave South Africa, click here]

apartheid

 

 

 

a short while ago two South Africans sparked an international discussion about racism, guilt and responsibility when they printed and distributed forty t-shirts with the slogan ‘I benefited from apartheid’ written on them:

 

 

 

 

 

zapiro

 

 

well-known political satirist Jonathan Shapiro [aka Zapiro] came up with this minimalistic but powerful cartoon which expressed his take on the matter:

 

 

 

are they right? yes, for sure, i definitely had [and still have] benefits from apartheid – they were not as a result of my choosing, or even my parents choosing, but they are real.

so in a nutshell i have to feel guilty for being white.

i also have to feel guilty for being male. women have been oppressed in this country and around the world for who knows how many decades, centuries even. have i benefited from that? surely i have. i may not have chosen my penis but it has served me well, just by being there.

what else is there?

english-speaking? because surely as one of the dominant languages that worldwide communication and media have been presented in, this has forced some kind of pain and trauma on those who have been forced to speak it?

christian? while i prefer the term ‘Christ-follower personally’ i know that being grouped in this group racks up the score column for guilt and shame [no-one expected the Spanish Inquisition…]

how about heterosexual? [because heaven knows we’ve treated the gays badly]

i imagine there are probably more, but it seems as if there is enough data to suggest that i am part of the most privileged demographic imaginable – white male heterosexual english-speaking christian… and therefore the most guilty.

i think i get it. to a large extent. having benefited from apartheid etc etc i need to own that and take responsibility and be involved in reconciliation and reparation where possible as well as doing what i can do to address the various imbalances that now exist as a result of the past.

at the same time, is there a time when it ends? when i can stop feeling the need to feel guilty because i am white, because i am a man, because i…

because, to be very honest, i did not have a lot of say in the whiteness of my white, i wasn’t all that involved in the maleness of my maleity, i was born into english, i am attracted to women [and one very beautiful one in particular]

the only thing on my list that i can see that i had any part in choosing to be a part of is the christian one and even there i have chosen to align myself to a Christ-following which i hope looks a LOT different from the majority of wrongs and perversions that the typical historical christian [those who profess one thing but live another] has gotten horribly wrong.

in terms of the apartheid debris in South Africa, i will continue to do what i can to make amends and take responsibility for the past i largely inherited, but will there be a time when i am allowed to ask questions of the post-apartheid government who continue to be a hive of corruption, mismanagement, greed and nepotism and spend/waste/party this country into the ground?

because, to be honest, it’s been 18 years now. you’re practically legal new democracy. Mandela showed you the way you could choose to live – with grace, forgiveness, honour, invitation, integrity… and it is up to you at some stage to embrace that.

to be honest, i don’t actively carry any guilt for any of who i am, no matter how much the pressure is exerted to do so. i know that i’m far from perfect and i try to live better, day to day, than how i lived the day before. i try to take responsibility when i mess up and make things right with the people i have hurt or wronged. and i believe this is something that needs to be embraced by every one of us, so that we can really turn this country around and make it the incredible place it should be.

so when do we stop blaming apartheid? when do we start taking responsibility together?

unity.

ubuntu.

you and me. let’s do this.

i have been working on my 9gag skills thankx to my buddy liam bruce wantenaar and this one suddenly hit me and i like it.

so i read in the newspaper today before church (stocking up on caffeine and chocolate crouissant at the bp) that Jacob Zuma (our president) has fathered another child.

i never used to like Zuma. i heard a lot of bad things about him and saw him involved in some criminal cases with various accusations and he made some infamously bad statements about showering preventing AIDS (after being head of some AIDS council or something) and so i didn’t have a positive opinion

then i found out that my girlfriend (now wife, the beautiful Val) was friends with one of Zuma’s children and i met them and they were a really cool personage and so the one day i emailed them on Facebook and asked them to tell me one nice thing about their dad (cos i only had the bad stuff so what is one thing you really like about your dad that no-one else would know) – and they told me a thing – and it was a cool thing related to him being a family man and really vibing with the family

and it was cool to view someone i didn’t think much of  (an opinion mostly formed by what i’d read or seen in the media) from someone who loved them’s perspective

and it made me think yesterday that even Hitler must have had a mom – probably Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden have friends or family members who dig them and spent some good times with them – serial killer Charles Manson had a girl at college who had a crush on him, that kind of thing

something somewhere along the line went wrong i would imagine – and maybe it was early on – but no-one is born inherently completely irredeemably evil – horrible upbringing or traumatic boarding school experience or some kind of abuse or lack of parent or something and the wrong path is chosen

it makes me want to be a little more aware of the young people i am working with at church and through camps and just everyone i come into contact with – because i would imagine on the flipside that people like Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa and Gandhi and Bono and, i dunno, whoever the turned-out-pretty-well people of the world are, had an upbringing where something went right

maybe i can be that thing. maybe you can.

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